June 2104 in review: Big stories from big data

Big data held centre court this month, thanks to a conference in Toronto. We got a bunch of big stories from the sessions, which provided useful information for CIOs.

For example, Alan Khara, director of information of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) of Vancouver, said that volume of data isn’t the point.  “From a business point of view it isn’t important that you’re collecting big data, it is how you’re analyzing it,” he told the conference. The more diverse skills your analytics team has the better, he added.

My colleague, CanadianCIO editor Shane Schick, covered a session on how Public Health Ontario uses big data analytics for something other than marketing. Department IT executive Jim Tom said expectations have to be managed.  “The path from getting the information and affecting real change (in health care) is a long path. It’s not six months,” Jim Tom told the conference. “You have to talk about probabilities, but people like certainty.”
“When you’re tracking what a customer’s doing on your Web site, you know what they’re doing. There’s not a lot of noise there. When you’re trying to track what causes someone’s cancer, there’s a lot of noise.”

Also this month

— staff at the federal Justice department proved they’re just as mortal as the rest of us when it was revealed 37 per cent fell for an email phishing ploy. Fortunately, it was a penetration test;

–installing fibre to homes in some U.S. cities to offer 1 Gbps Internet service isn’t enough for Google. The company is thinking about launching 180 satellites at a cost of US$1.3 billion to bring broadband to a wider audience. Or, as the piece notes, it may use drones or balloons;

–the Supreme Court of Canada said that law enforcement agencies can no longer ask carriers to hand over basic subscriber information in aid of criminal investigations. Instead they’ll have to get a search warrant unless the matter is urgent. In a unanimous decision the court said Canadians expect that information held by carriers is private – that they have a right to anonymity on the Internet that can’t be violated by a police request for information in the process of a criminal investigation;

–Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman insisted the once financially-troubled company is “back on solid footing.” As we’ll see later in the year, she announced that as a result of bringing order HP will split into enterprise services and hardware companies;

–and Toronto was named intelligent city of the year, joining former Canadian winners Waterloo, Ont. and Calgary.

June means its time for the annual Canadian Telecom Conference in Toronto, where the highlight is the regulatory blockbuster panel. For an hour senior legal executives of wired and wireless carriers launch verbal darts at each other and, often, at the federal government. This year was no different, with Rogers Communications’ SVP Ken Engelhart alleging an unnamed official at Industry Canada seemed to assure him that incumbent carriers (like Rogers) would eventually be able to buy startups like Wind Mobile or Mobilicity.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Also at the conference, Wind Mobile chair and CEO Anthony Lacavera told me he was certain his startup will survive, with a little help from Ottawa. Some of that help will come later in the year when Industry Canada announces that at the 2015 AWS-3 spectrum auction most of the frequencies to be bid on will be reserved for new entrant carriers like Wind.

Finally, a vigorous technology evangelist from Symantec told a Toronto me the biggest mistake IT security pros make is to sometimes turn some — or all — the security capabilities off to boost network performance.

“There’s illustration after illustration out there that point to huge mistakes on the part of IT saying turning a dollar is more important than security,” Neils Johnson said in an interview at the SC Congress conference. “It may be in the short term; long term that philosophy is going to own you.” Read more of what he said here.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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